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This article was excerpted from a more detailed description of the program available at http://ptec.org.
With the help of National Science Foundation (NSF) and American Physical Society (APS) funding, the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) has developed the Physics Teaching Resource Agent (PTRA) model for physical science and physics teacher professional development. This model includes development of peer mentors and professional development leaders, systemic infrastructure, assessment instruments, and a curriculum based on experienced mentors and physics education research.
Components of AAPT/PTRA Professional Development Program
The features included in the AAPT/PTRA Professional Development Model are:
AAPT/PTRA Goals & Activities
The AAPT/PTRA Program goals include providing an opportunity for upper elementary, middle, and high school teachers to experience professional growth in the areas of physics and physical science content (e.g., Kinematics, Energy, Newton's Laws), use of technology (e.g., electronic measurements, graphic calculators, simulations), and teaching techniques based on physics education research.
Teachers identified as outstanding in the four areas listed below have been designated and trained by the AAPT as AAPT/PTRAs. These first-tier AAPT/PTRAs attend annual AAPT/PTRA professional development sessions on workshop leadership, organization, and delivery of content topics. These teachers continue to be provided with experiences during the annual AAPT/PTRA National Summer Institutes to grow as workshop leaders. The four areas used to critique applicants for AAPT/PTRA status are:
A Boston College study, TIMSS (Third International Mathematics and Science Study) Physics Achievement Comparison Study, published in April 2000 shows that students of teachers who have attended NSF funded projects, such as AAPT/PTRA Professional Development Program, performed significantly better on the TIMSS physics assessment. The USA overall mean is 423 while the mean for students of teachers who have attended NSF sponsored professional development is 475. In addition, Horizon Research has documented the success of the AAPT/PTRA Program. This study shows that teachers who attend AAPT/PTRA workshops are more confident in their own physics content knowledge and thus are more likely to make a commitment not only to use the technology, but also to use the results of successful and research-based teaching strategies (e.g., modeling, directed guided inquiry, self-directed learning, ranking tasks).
The AAPT/PTRA workshops are of two types: content specific and teaching strategy specific. Content specific subjects include Kinematics, Energy, Geometric Optics, Momentum, Newton's Laws, the Electromagnetic Spectrum, etc. Workshops dealing with teaching strategies include the Role of the Laboratory, Use of TI-84 in Teaching Physics, Role of Demonstrations, Guided Inquiry, etc.
Teachers enjoying learning during an AAPT/PTRA summer institute
Outline Of A Typical AAPT/PTRA Weeklong Institute: Kinematics/Motion
Compare/Contrast/Measurement: Time as an Instant, Frequency, Time as an Interval, and Period Using Pendulum and/or Flashing Light.
Compare/Contrast/Measurement: Position, Distance Traveled, and Displacement
Compare/Contrast/Measurement: Speed and Velocity
Compare/Contrast/Measurement: Acceleration Using Toy Cars and Toy Airplanes
Calculations using Basic Kinematics Definitions, Graphs, and Equations
All of these topics are developed with inquiry-based laboratory activities.
Jim Nelson has been leader of the Physics Teaching Resource Agent (PTRA) program since 1984. Jim currently teaches at Santa Fe College in Gainesville. He earned a Master Degree in Education (1963) from Temple University in Philadelphia and a Masters Degree in Physics (1968) from Clarkson University in Potsdam NY. He received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science Teaching (1985), the Distinguished Service Award from the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT), the AAPT Award for Excellence in Pre-College Physics Teaching (2000), and numerous other national awards for educational excellence.